The Zoe1 was used for the first phase of trials. Source: TMRQld/Youtube
The Zoe1 was used for the first phase of trials. Source: TMRQld/Youtube

The Queensland Labor government has unveiled a $1.5 million, custom-designed, autonomous and electric Renault Zoe2, which it intends to use to learn more about how self-driving cars (or autonomous vehicles) will behave in an urban environment, and what is needed to make Queensland roads AV-ready.

The car will be fitted with numerous sensors and connective technology designed to turn the all-electric Renault Zoe2 hatchback into a connected  and “cooperative” autonomous vehicle (CAV).

It is the second vehicle in Queensland’s Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI) trials which began with a non-autonomous but sensor-laden Zoe1 in February.

Traversing 6km of roads of south Brisbane’s Shailer Park, the Renault Zoe2 (which has a 41kWh battery, 80kW motor and can drive up to 300km on a single charge) showcased the use of the technology in a typical suburb, including roundabouts, intersections and driveways.

“Not only do we want Queensland roads to be AV-ready, we want Queensland industry to be AV-ready too and to create the jobs of the future right here,” minister of transport and main roads Mark Bailey said in a statement.

In comparison to the new autonomous Zoe2, the ZOE 1 vehicle of the first phase of trials was kitted with cameras and LiDAR, but had no self-driving capabilities.

That vehicle was used to better understand the static roadway asset needs of an automated vehicles, collecting camera and LiDAR imagery on 1200km of rural and urban Southeast Queensland roadways, which was then assessed using open source, state-of-the-art algorithms.

The ZOE2 vehicle, on the other hand, is cooperative and highly automated and will be used to better understand the safety of the technology when it dynamically interacts with others – the driver, other road-users and infrastructure such as traffic lights.

Before Tuesday’s demonstration could take place, preparatory work was required to enable the Zoe2 to be driven on public roads, including an assessment of vehicle positioning coverage, cellular communications coverage, objects in the surrounding road environment, weather conditions and roadway safety related features, including road and street speed limits and low traffic volumes.

It will be used to better understand the safety of the technology when it dynamically interacts with others, specifically the driver, other road users and infrastructure such as traffic lights.

In addition to testing in the urban environment, the ZOE2 will be used to undergo testing on regional Queensland roads.

In addition to the six LiDARS, one stereo camera, two mono cameras and one radar on the Zoe2, a number of localisation are also installed, including:

  • Dual frequency GPS receiver augmented by RTK correction through 3G mobile networks
  • Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)
  • High accuracy odometer
  • Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) system utilising pre-mapped infrastructure.

Built for the CAVI trials by French consortium Vedecom, CEO Philippe Watteau said, “We are pleased to have supplied ZOE2 to TMR/QUT and are looking forward to working together in the fast-developing field of sustainable, shared and autonomous mobility.”

“Our cooperation with Queensland researchers underpins our common goal of identifying innovative mobility solutions and reinforces France-Australia strategic cooperation in the field of innovation.”

The Zoe2 project is supported by Queensland’s Motor Accident Insurance Commission, the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre and QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q).

According to CARRS-Q director Andry Rakotonirainy, the Zoe2 is one of the most advanced vehicles of its type, and that it “will facilitate multidisciplinary investigations into how road users accept, adopt and cooperate with new automated systems.”

“This highly automated vehicle will assist in identifying and addressing policy, institutional, societal and regulatory challenges to ensure their safe integration into our transport system,” Professor Rakotonirainy said.

While regulatory change is not the focus of the CHAD trial, discussion on the need for a national approach to regulatory reforms is already underway led by the National Transport Commission and Austroads, in partnership with all Australian governments.

These reforms are wide reaching, impacting first-supply to the market, driving laws, road rules, insurance and liability, access and use of data as well as compliance and enforcement processes.

The results of the Zoe1 study will be released shortly.

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